LIVE FROM GSMA MOBILE 360 SERIES – AFRICA, KIGALI: Africa’s entrepreneurs are looking for their work to have a positive impact on both society and their balance sheets, an emerging markets startup expert said.
Claudia Makadristo, Seedstars’ regional manager for Africa (pictured), said the current generation of investors and entrepreneurs see their decisions as “a way to express their social, political or environmental goals”, but also believe it is “about combining profit with impact”.
Between 70 per cent and 80 per cent of millennials in emerging markets view “starting their own business as a success, especially in continents like Latin America, South Asia: in Africa unfortunately we are still a bit behind, but hopefully we will get there soon.”
The less mature stage of Africa’s digital ecosystem poses challenges: “The reality is that unfortunately most entrepreneurial ecosystems in emerging markets are not ready yet to absorb all of these investments that the bigger guys want to make,” she said.
“On one hand, the big challenge is to focus on quantity, so how do we increase the pool of entrepreneurs that are out there. But the other side, which is actually more important, is how do we make sure that there is a big enough pool of quality entrepreneurs that can take on these bigger investments.”
Key lessons include the need to collaborate in local ecosystems and “the different countries we have”; to maintain quality to ensure “our entrepreneurs can compete on a regional and global stage”; and to show and publish results.
“We have a bunch of incubators, accelerators, support programmes. If any investor from abroad wants to come, the easiest place to go is there. Yet we have no clue how many are successful, how many are not,” she said.
“From an investor perspective, I know we always say failure must be celebrated, but I would argue differently. For me, for us, failure is tolerated. If you lose our money, bad luck, but you don’t want to lose an investor’s money – trust me. It makes it so much more difficult to come back for another round.”
She concluded: “I get to work with the smartest people on the continent, and it’s not the C-level execs of the big corporates or the big guys of the governments. It’s these young people who have literally everything working against them, and still decide to come up with real solutions to real problems.”